3 Ways to Treat Minor Burns
Stop the Burning
A burn can't be treated until the burning has stopped. If you're treating a burn caused by heat, make sure the fire is completely out by smothering it with water or a blanket. Burns caused by extreme cold should be treated with warm air, even just by breathing on them, or with warm water. As soon as the burn is out, remove any constricting jewelry, shoes or clothing, since the burned area is likely to swell quickly. Chemical burns may need special treatment, so be ready to call a poison control hotline. If you were burned by a hot, sticky substance that can't be removed, such as tar or melting plastic, run cold water on the substance to cool it down.
Cool the Burn
Place the burned skin under cool running water for up to 10 minutes to ease the pain of the burn. Because the burn continues to damage the skin even after the fire is out, you should start this treatment as quickly as possible, preferably within 20 minutes of the burn occurrence. Don't use cold water or ice, which can stick to the burn and cause further damage. If cool running water isn't available, apply cool compresses to the burned area using a towel or other absorbent material that isn't likely to stick to the skin.
Cover the Burn
Apply an antibiotic ointment to a burn and cover it with a sterile, nonstick dressing to keep air from touching it. Since air is one of the three ingredients needed to create fire, the other two being heat and fuel, removing air from the equation limits the continued damage caused by the burn and also prevents pain. Make sure you don't break any blisters when applying the dressing. Even if the burn is no longer causing pain, dressing it helps prevent any later infection. Although an old home remedy called for applying butter to a burn, doctors now know that butter, being an oil, can actually act as fuel and cause the burn to continue causing damage.
Minor burns typically heal on their own, so you can usually treat them yourself at home. Once a burn creates blisters, it is no longer considered minor and should be treated by a medical professional. Burns on the face and hands should also be treated professionally, especially if they are deep or cover an extensive area.
If a burn continues to be painful after applying first aid, it's OK to take an over-the-counter painkiller such as aspirin or acetaminophen. See a doctor if pain increases or if you notice any swelling or oozing coming from the burned area.